The House on Wednesday passed the mammoth $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package, which President Biden is expected to sign Friday.
The House approved the relief package in a starkly partisan 220-211 vote, sending the legislation to the White House and clinching Democrats’ first big legislative victory in the Biden era. No Republicans voted for the package and all but one House Democrat—Rep. Jared Golden of Maine—supported it. The Hill’s Cristina Marcos has more here.
The political split: Unlike the previous relief measures enacted last year, Democrats barely bothered to negotiate with Republicans and pushed the relief package through Congress along party lines using the budget reconciliation process. That allowed them to go as big as they wanted to go without running into a Senate GOP filibuster.
Republicans argue the use of a process dodging the filibuster shows Biden wasn’t serious about bringing unity, and House GOP lawmakers on Wednesday warned of the bill’s total cost.
But Democrats think Republicans will pay for their opposition to the popular bill and argued that they would oppose anything Biden proposed.
What’s in the $1.9T COVID-19 relief package: Along with $1,400 direct payments to households, an extension of expanded unemployment benefits, and aid for state and local governments, the package is loaded with other provisions intended to speed up the recovery from the recession and help struggling families fight the impact of COVID-19.
Tax credits: The bill increases the child tax credit for households below certain income thresholds for 2021 and makes it fully refundable, and also expands the earned income tax credit for the year.
Child care: $15 billion for grants to help low-income families afford child care and increases the child and dependent care tax credit for one year.
Pensions: $86 billion to bailout struggling union pension funds.
Transportation: $30 billion to bolster local subway and bus systems, $8 billion for airports, $1.5 billion for furloughed Amtrak workers, and $3 billion for wages at aerospace companies.
Housing: $27.4 billion in emergency rental assistance, another $10 billion to help homeowners avoid foreclosure, $5 billion in vouchers for public housing, $5 billion to tackle homelessness and $5 billion more to help households cover utility bills.
Small businesses: The American Rescue Plan broadens eligibility guidelines for the Paycheck Protection Program, allowing more nonprofit entities to be eligible, adds $15 billion in emergency grants and also sets aside more than $28 billion in funding for restaurants.
ObamaCare subsidies and Medicaid expansion: The bill increases ObamaCare subsidies through 2022 to make them more generous, a longtime goal for Democrats, and opens up more fully subsidized plans to individuals. It also would provide extra Medicaid funding to states that expand the program and have yet to do so.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Friday released long-awaited guidance on safely reopening schools, emphasizing the importance of having schools open as long as proper safety precautions are followed.
The guidance states it is “critical for schools to open as safely and as soon as possible,” given the benefits of in-person learning.
The top recommendations for doing so safely are universal wearing of masks by students, staff and teachers as well as distancing so that people are six feet apart.
Vaccination of teachers should be prioritized, the agency said, but “should not be considered a condition” of reopening schools.
Schools can adjust whether they are fully in-person or hybrid depending on the level of spread in the surrounding community and mitigation measures in place.
Schools are encouraged to use “podding” to separate students into smaller groups to help make contract tracing easier.
Some teachers don’t want to return to the classroom until they’ve been vaccinated — setting up potential clashes with state and local governments pushing to reopen schools.
Why it matters:Extended virtual learning is taking a toll on kids, and the Biden administration is pushing to get them back in the classroom quickly. But that will only be feasible if teachers are on board.
Where it stands:Although the rise of new, more contagious variants has scrambled the calculus on school reopening, for now the expert consensus is that vaccinations aren’t essential to safely reopening schools.
A pair of studies from the CDC this week reiterated the agency’s stance that schools can operate safely with the proper precautions, along with other mitigation measures in the broader community.
Most states haven’t put teachers at the front of the line for vaccines. Only 18 have included teachers in the early priority groups that can get vaccinated now, and in all but four of those states, teachers are competing for shots with other higher-risk populations, including the elderly.
Yes, but: Teachers in some large school districts don’t want to return to the classroom without being vaccinated — which could mean several more months of virtual classes.
The Chicago teachers union has asked to delay reopening until teachers receive at least the first dose of the vaccine, but the city’s public health commissioner has said it could take months for teachers to be vaccinated, the Chicago Tribune reports.
“If you are required to work with students in person — which thousands of educators have been doing for months now — you should be vaccinated as soon as possible,” Jessica Tang, president of the Boston Teachers Union, said in statement after teachers were bumped behind the elderly in the state’s priority line, per Boston.com.
What they’re saying:“The issue is that we should be aligning vaccination with school opening. That doesn’t mean every single teacher has to be vaccinated before you open one school, it means there has to be that alignment,” Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, told ABC News.
Teachers should be eligible for vaccination by “late January,” she wrote in a USA Today op-ed over the weekend.
The other side: Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine has said school staff will be prioritized for vaccination, with the goal of having students return to classrooms by March 1.
But prioritizing teachers can be controversial. Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has been criticized for the decision to vaccinate teachers ahead of the elderly, high-risk essential workers and other vulnerable communities.
In a rural county in Georgia and at a private school in Philadelphia, teacher vaccine clinics were shut down by their state health departments, which said that educators were not yet eligible.
The bottom line:“It’s challenging to make those decisions about how to prioritize different populations, all of whom are at significant risk,” the Kaiser Family Foundation’s Jennifer Tolbert said.
State-level reports are the best publicly available data on child COVID-19 cases in the United States. The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association are collaborating to collect and share all publicly available data from states on child COVID-19 cases (definition of “child” case is based on varying age ranges reported across states; see report Appendix for details and links to all data sources).
As of November 12th, over 1 million children have tested positive for COVID-19 since the onset of the pandemic. The age distribution of reported COVID-19 cases was provided on the health department websites of 49 states, New York City, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Guam. Children represented 11.5% of all cases in states reporting cases by age.
A smaller subset of states reported on hospitalizations and mortality by age; the available data indicated that COVID-19-associated hospitalization and death is uncommon in children.
The number of new child COVID-19 cases reported this week, nearly 112,000, is by far the highest weekly increase since the pandemic began. At this time, it appears that severe illness due to COVID-19 is rare among children. However, there is an urgent need to collect more data on longer-term impacts on children, including ways the virus may harm the long-term physical health of infected children, as well as its emotional and mental health effects.
Summary of Findings (data available as of 11/12/20) :
(Note: Data represent cumulative counts since states began reporting)
Cumulative Number of Child COVID-19 Cases*
1,039,464 total child COVID-19 cases reported, and children represented 11.5% (1,039,464/9,037,991) of all cases
Overall rate: 1,381 cases per 100,000 children in the population
Change in Child COVID-19 Cases*
111,946 new child COVID-19 cases were reported the past week from 11/5-11/12 (927,518 to 1,039,464)
Over two weeks, 10/29-11/12, there was a 22% increase in child COVID-19 cases (185,829 new cases (853,635 to 1,039,464))
Testing (10 states reported)*
Children made up between 5.0%-17.4% of total state tests, and between 3.9%-18.8% of children tested were tested positive
Hospitalizations (23 states and NYC reported)*
Children were 1.2%-3.3% of total reported hospitalizations, and between 0.5%-6.1% of all child COVID-19 cases resulted in hospitalization
Mortality (42 states and NYC reported)*
Children were 0.00%-0.21% of all COVID-19 deaths, and 16 states reported zero child deaths
In states reporting, 0.00%-0.15% of all child COVID-19 cases resulted in death
* Note: Data represent cumulative counts since states began reporting; All data reported by state/local health departments are preliminary and subject to change
As evidence, Trump Jr. cited a misleading graph on his Instagram page – apparently compiled from incomplete and already outdated federal data – which was used as evidence to suggest that the “death rate” has been falling dramatically in the last two weeks. In fact, daily deaths are slightly rising after a long plateau, and the situation is expected to worsen in November as the virus takes its toll on the newly infected. “I realize I am naive,” Ashish K. Jha, the dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, tweeted in response to the interview. “But I’m still shocked by the casualness by which our political and media leaders and their families dismiss the daily deaths of nearly a thousand Americans.”
Hundreds of thousands of Americans will have coronavirus infections on Election Day, and options are dwindling for those who intend to vote. “Some will be required to get doctor’s notes or enlist family members to help,” our Investigations desk reported. “Others, in isolation, will need to have a witness present while they vote. Planned accommodations — such as officials hand-delivering ballots — may prove inadequate or could be strained beyond limits.”
The nationwide surge in coronavirus cases is forcing many school districts to pull back from in-person instruction, Axios’ Marisa Fernandez reports.
Why it matters:Remote learning is a burden on parents, teachers and students. But the wave of new infections, and its strain on some hospitals’ capacity, makes all forms of reopening harder to justify.
Where it stands:Over 60% of U.S. public school students will be attending schools with in-person options, up 20% from Labor Day, Education Dive reports. But some of those districts are pulling back.
Spikes in COVID-19 cases are forcing two Salt Lake County high schools to close their doors and switch to online-only instruction — in a district where half the high schools were already closed, the Salt Lake Tribune reports.
Both Boston and Chicago’s public school districts shut down in-person learning as health officials investigate outbreaks in nearby suburbs.
Nineteen Minnesota counties are on the verge of closing their K-12 schools for the foreseeable future because of rising coronavirus cases, the Pioneer Press reports.